I have three children. My middle child, a girl, is strange. She has always been cute as a button and had a sunny disposition. Now she’s a teen and is no longer sunny. My particular humor has been branded as dark and sarcastic, occasionally sardonic. She had none, but tried hard to be funny. She has always been bright, but continues to get smarter and smarter–too smart for my own good–I mean for HER own good. She has worked diligently on her sarcasm and is now an executive member of the club. She proudly advertises this by wearing her favorite shirt, which reads ‘Fluent in Sarcasm.’ She is gifted in math and loves to read.
The problem is that she reads what I consider to be nonsense. I read mostly non-fiction: history, how things work, biographies, and theology. But, I do enjoy a good story. I also appreciate how novels have helped to convey culture, and even impact culture. My daughter is graduating middle school and has honors in all classes but one, writing. I had a meeting last year with her writing teacher to inquire about her lackluster performance in his class. I went in with both barrels loaded. She’s acing every other class, so it must be him.
me: Why are you giving my daughter a bad grade in your course?
teacherman: I don’t give grades, students earn them.
me: Oh brother….
me: Why is she ‘earning’ a bad mark in writing?
teacherman: Your daughter is lazy.
teacherman: Reading is easy. Writing is work. It takes effort. She doesn’t put forth the effort.
me: (inaudibly) Yeah, no shit. I’ve noticed. You should see her room and the pile of dishes she won’t wash. The aquarium in her room looks like an industrial fungus takeover.
me: This is an advanced class. Is she capable of doing well in your class intellectually?
me: But she’s lazy?
me: Thanks for all the info. It will take me time to pour through the voluminous comments you’ve provided me here today.
teacherman: You’re welcome. Bye.
So, I have decided that she can’t take the summer off of reading and writing. Reading is easy, she really loves reading. She actually wants to read 100 books this summer. The problem is she reads teen nonsense involving love triangles with vampires and werewolfs and a girl. Nonsense.
So, I came home half cocked yesterday to tell her what her summer assignments would be. In teen speak, ‘I’d tell her what’s up’.
me: Kid. You will read 10 works of classic literature this summer.
me: Yeah. You’ll read Catch-22, Tale of Two Cities, Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatzby, Haunted Hill, The Power and the Glory, Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre, Brave New World, and Huckleberry Finn.
kid: Let me get this straight….you’re going to buy me all these books for free and I don’t have to do anything? I thought this was supposed to be a punishment. What’s wrong with you?
kid: I just read them?
me: No, you will write 5 blogs per week of 500+ words. You will write reports about each book, which can count as a blog after each review.
kid: Can I just do all this in the next two weeks, so that I don’t have to worry about it any more? I mean, I am going to read 100 books this summer, so I’ll just get yours out of the way.
me: Go away.
I guess I’ll leave this discipline stuff to the wife, she seems to be able to make them more upset than I do. Somehow this kid ridiculed my punishment, one upped me on sarcasm, and made me feel used when it was all done. I suck at it.
But, she will read cool books and keep up on her writing………….Or I’ll think up some other cruel and unusual punishment!